C-Falls’ Gil and Erma Prier ‘always in tune’

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  • Gil and Erma Prier of Columbia Falls play a tune in their music room, surrounded by 20-some instruments on the walls. (Ashley Fox photos/Lake County Leader)

  • 1

    Gil Prier plays a steel guitar while wife Erma plays the keyboard in a music room of their Columbia Falls Home. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

  • 2

    Guitars line the walls of a music room in Erma and Gil Prier’s Columbia Falls home.

  • 3

    Gil and Erma Prier coordinate their outfits for their shows.

  • 4

    Nearly 30 instruments hang from the walls in a music room in Gil and Erma (Davis) Prier’s Columbia Falls home. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

  • Gil and Erma Prier of Columbia Falls play a tune in their music room, surrounded by 20-some instruments on the walls. (Ashley Fox photos/Lake County Leader)

  • 1

    Gil Prier plays a steel guitar while wife Erma plays the keyboard in a music room of their Columbia Falls Home. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

  • 2

    Guitars line the walls of a music room in Erma and Gil Prier’s Columbia Falls home.

  • 3

    Gil and Erma Prier coordinate their outfits for their shows.

  • 4

    Nearly 30 instruments hang from the walls in a music room in Gil and Erma (Davis) Prier’s Columbia Falls home. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

Wearing color-coordinated clothing, Gil and Erma Prier stood surrounded by instruments hung neatly on walls as they played the Liechtensteiner polka.

The couple, who has played music together for 72 years, lived in Lake County then Arizona before settling in Columbia Falls.

“The goal is to play until we are 90,” Erma, 87, said.

Gil is 88 years old.

Their musical history goes back to the 1940s when Gil’s radio group, the Rocky Mountain Rangers, were looking for a singer.

Erma said that her cousin walked up to Gil and said she could sing. She was 17 at the time.

Both Gil and Erma have had lessons as well as self-teaching themselves some instruments.

“There are eight (instruments) that I play reasonably well, and a few others I play as I tinker around,” Gil said, while Erma has played mutiple instruments, including the accordion, piano and clarinet.

They’ve each played music since they were 12 years old.

GIL WAS born in “the big town” of Pablo, while Erma was born in Stocket, Mont., 12 miles south of Great Falls.

Her family came to Polson in 1947.

Through the years, they have held various jobs outside of music, with Gil being drafted to the Korean War and Erma working at the Big Arm Post Office as a clerk and later the postmaster.

Erma said that both and she Gil got married to other spouses and moved their own ways, keeping in touch.

Gil added that he and Erma’s husband, Ernie (Davis), were close friends.

After their spouses passed away, Gil thought it would be a good time for the lifelong friends to continue in another capacity.

“He said, ‘Why won’t we get married and play music?’ So we did,” Erma said.

They married almost 22 years ago, moving to Arizona afterward.

Wearing coordinating clothes, Erma explained that the couple will play gigs without accepting money.

“We don’t charge anyone for playing. We just play. If we have a kittie, we give it to the place where we’re playing,” she said.

They have 30-some outfits that match. Erma adds fringe and “sparkles,” making her jewelry and other accents.

“It seems to be a big thing with (the audience),” Erma said. “They love it.”

BESIDES PLAYING music that makes their audience want to dance, the garb is part of their attraction.

“This is something you want to do for your audience. It’s not just music; they want to see how you look,” Erma said.

As people age, Gil said it’s difficult for the musicians to blend when they play in a band. “So we totally gave up on that and we decided we would just generate our own (music),” he said.

Gil found a computer program that allows him to record songs using soundbites.

“You have to program every song you’re going to do, and I’ve probably got a couple thousand” in the computer, he said.

At first, Gil said recording a song took weeks. Now, he has become familiar enough with the software that generating a tune is “a matter of seconds.”

Gil plays the guitar and fiddle and Erma plays the keybord, sometimes singing during performances.

The two are in tune with one another and don’t rehearse together.

Erma doesn’t practice, while Gil said he “gets rusty” if he doesn’t.

Their musical journey has allowed Gil and Erma to be featured on The Travel Channel as well as in the Los Angeles Sunday paper.

The couple also plays at weddings, hospitals, senior centers, and even sometimes funerals, Erma said.

Married for 22 memorable years they are still in tune with each other.

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